Zesty Quinoa Salad is perfect for a hot summer day. It’s cool and refreshing, not to mention it is full of healthy ingredients! You can make it as a vegetarian salad or add chicken for extra protein.
This Zesty Quinoa Salad Recipe is one of our favorite summertime dinners because you can prep all the ingredients ahead of time and assemble it right before serving for a quick meal on a busy summer night.
I like to use quinoa in recipes (like my crockpot stuffed peppers) instead of rice, partly because of the health benefits but also because it tastes great! If you don't like quinoa, you can use couscous, barley, or orzo. (Quinoa is a great base for a salad, as it contains protein, fiber, and minerals and is gluten-free.)
This is a perfect summer salad because it can be altered to use fresh summer produce - diced zucchini, roasted yellow squash, cherry tomatoes, corn, or cucumbers.
Ingredients in this Zesty Quinoa Salad
- Quinoa - If you don't like quinoa, you can use couscous, barley, or orzo.
- Cooked Chicken, diced - optional
- Orange Bell Pepper, diced
- Red Bell Pepper, diced
- Yellow Bell Pepper, diced
- Red Onion
- Carrots, shredded
- Fresh Cilantro
- Brazil Nuts, chopped finely - If you don't like Brazil nuts, you can use sliced almonds, pine nuts, or pistachios.
- Dried Cranberries
- Black Pepper
- Lime Juice - If you don't like lime juice, you can also use lemon juice but don't leave this out - it's what makes the salad ZESTY.
To add a little extra protein, you can also add beans - black beans, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), or white northern beans would be delicious.
How to Make Vegetable Quinoa Salad
Cooking quinoa is easy. It’s best to read the directions on the specific box you purchase, as each one may differ.
Important Tip: Before cooking quinoa, rinse it in cold water to remove the saponin coating the outside of the seeds - otherwise, the quinoa will taste bitter.
When I cook quinoa, after rinsing, I place the quinoa in water or broth in a medium pan over high heat. Once it boils, cover and simmer it until all the water is absorbed. This usually takes about 15 minutes.
For this recipe, you should chill the cooked quinoa. You can toss the quinoa in a little bit of olive oil before chilling if you would like. (I sometimes add a squeeze of lime juice and some diced fresh cilantro.)
While the quinoa chills, cut up the peppers and onion and shred the carrots. Also, chop up the fresh cilantro. I love cilantro. It can really wake up a dish with such great flavor!
Next, chop up the Brazil nuts. I put the nuts in because they are high in selenium. Selenium is an antioxidant that can help protect healthy cells from damage.
You can also use sliced almonds instead of Brazil nuts. I just decided to use Brazil nuts because of the health benefits of the nut, and they just taste great!
Once you have all the ingredients ready to go, combine them in a large bowl with the chilled quinoa. If you are using chicken, add the cooked chicken to the salad mix.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Squeeze the lime juice over the salad and gently toss.
Now, this is where we differ on the recipe in my house. You can serve it as is right now…with the chicken being warm and only the quinoa chilled. Or, you can place it back into the refrigerator to chill the entire salad. Either way is delicious.
The first time I made it, I did not chill the entire salad, and it was good. The second time we had the salad, it was chilled, and a family member commented that they liked it better with the chicken warm.
So, it is totally up to you how you would like to serve it. If you are chilling the entire salad, I would suggest chilling it for at least an hour. I hope you enjoy it!
How to Store Zesty Quinoa Salad
Quinoa salad should be stored in the fridge in an airtight container. It will keep for 5-7 days, though the quinoa will start to get crunchy and dry the longer it sits - to revive it, you can toss it in more lime or lemon juice and a little olive oil.
🙋♀️ Frequently Asked Questions
Once quinoa is cooked, the seeds expand to around 4 times their original size. So, 1 cup of uncooked quinoa yields around 4 cups of cooked quinoa. To prepare quinoa, combine 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups boiling water or broth, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer - it is ready in about 15 minutes.
Yes, quinoa must be rinsed with cold water before you cook it. This is important because rinsing the quinoa will get rid of the bitter-tasting compound called saponin that coats the tiny seeds. If you don't rinse quinoa, it will taste really bad and you will hate it. (A lot of people think they hate quinoa, but they just have not prepared it properly.)
Yes! Quinoa salad can be prepared in advance - it will keep for several days in the refrigerator.
Quinoa salad can be served hot or cold - it depends on your family's preference.
Did you make this recipe? If so, please leave a comment and rating below. I love hearing from you.
Zesty Quinoa Salad
- mixing bowls
- small pot
- 1 cup quinoa uncooked
- 1 pound chicken cooked, optional
- 1 orange sweet pepper diced
- 1 red sweet pepper diced
- 1 yellow sweet pepper diced
- ¼ red onion finely chopped
- 1 cup carrot shredded, about 2 carrots
- ½ cup fresh cilantro chopped
- 2 tablespoons Brazil nuts chopped finely or sliced almonds
- 1 cup cranberries dried
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- lime juice from 2 limes
- Cook quinoa according to the directions on the box. (Be sure to rinse the quinoa first.)1 cup quinoa
- Place the cooked quinoa in the refrigerator to chill.
- While the quinoa is chilling, chop the vegetables, cilantro, and nuts.1 orange sweet pepper, 1 red sweet pepper, 1 yellow sweet pepper, ¼ red onion, 1 cup carrot, ½ cup fresh cilantro, 2 tablespoons Brazil nuts
- If you are using chicken, cook and cut up the chicken or use a cooked Rotisserie chicken.1 pound chicken
- Combine all chopped veggies, cilantro, & cranberries in a bowl with the cooked quinoa and diced chicken if you are using it.1 pound chicken, 1 orange sweet pepper, 1 red sweet pepper, 1 yellow sweet pepper, ¼ red onion, 1 cup carrot, ½ cup fresh cilantro, 2 tablespoons Brazil nuts, 1 cup cranberries
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper.¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Squeeze lime juice over salad and mix well.lime juice
- Serve as is or if you prefer it chilled, cover and chill at least one hour. It can be served either way.